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tv   Dateline Extra  MSNBC  October 16, 2016 6:00pm-7:01pm PDT

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ever come. >> reporter: one murder, so many victims. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline extra." thanks for watching. when i saw her, i lost concept of time. i reached in, pulled her out, i started screaming help. >> please! emily, wake up! wake up! >> it was the worst seconds of my life. >> how was it possible? >> i would give anything if she
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were alive today. >> -- such a sweet young wife and mom, such a shattering death. >> i cried all night long. >> he was downstairs with the kids. she was upstairs in the bath. then it happened. >> please, help me! >> how long's she been in here? >> i don't know. she was taking a bath! >> we didn't know if it was a tragic accident or something else. >> questions quickly swirled about a wife's secret. >> what did you eat? >> she did have an addiction to prescription pills. >> and a husband's story. >> she flopped on the floor. >> was it an accident, or maybe murder? >> she said, i'm scared of you. >> the whispering started almost immediately. you're a murderer? >> when you're innocent, you don't think it can happen. >> just wait until the spell-binding moment in court. >> it is nothing i would have ever imagined in my life.
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welcome to "dateline extra" i'm tamron hall. it started as a love story in a small town. a beautiful woman from a well to do family thought she had found her prince charming. but their story turned out to be anything but a fairy tale. love, children and a nice house turned into a fight against addiction, rumors and an accusation of murder. here's josh mankiewicz with "the quiet one." >> sometimes the fresh air of a small town can hide a lot of dirty laundry. >> my worst fear was all of a sudden true. sometimes sudden death can lay bare every secret. >> she had felt like she was abusing it. >> what happened in this small town would tear apart a marriage, and at the same time, separate two families that were once united by love.
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boone, iowa, on flat land just north of des moines, is a company town, headquarters for one of the largest grocery chains in the midwest, fairway. it's a family-owned company and rick beckwith is a third generation family ceo. he and his wife cindy raised a family of five. their youngest daughter emily. the sweet but quiet one. >> kind of a shrinking violet? >> well, the older sisters said that she never got spanked. >> she didn't. she just remained silent and look at me with those big brown eyes and it was over. >> even though emily was from a prominent wealthy family, her friend lisa says emily never flaunted it. >> everyone knew that emily was a beckwith, but i never felt less of a person in the presence of emily or any one of her family. >> emily was the girl everyone wanted to be friends with and
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every boy wanted to date. according to her friends. shannon and sarah. >> could have any boyfriend. >> all the guys were ga ga over her. she was gorgeous. you've seen pictures of her, even in high school, she was gorgeous. but it just wasn't her thing to date. >> by the time she was 21, emily had moved about 200 miles south to kansas city, missouri, working in a hair salon. one night in 2001, she went to a bar and a local boy named alex fazzino spotted her from across the room. and it's one of those aha moments, you might say. i was like, oh, i have to go talk to that girl. >> after a few dates, he said he knew she was the one. what did you like about her? >> what didn't i? she was beautiful. she was very nice. she dressed impeccably. yeah, what didn't i? >> alex's mother joann knew something was happening when her
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son asked if he could bring emily to sunday dinner. >> he said i have met someone and i would love to be able to bring her over so that you all can get to know her better. >> and you thought, here we go? >> yes, i did. >> back in boone, emily's family heard about the boy from kansas city. >> she called me up and said, i met this fellow. he's italian, and she said, you're going to love his family. they're louder than us. and she fell in love with the whole family immediately. emily's sister ammie could see they were in love. her eyes sparkled. alex's eyes sparkled when they were together. just huge smiles on both of their faces. >> the girl who never dated was swept off her feet. emily and alex married may 10, 2003. >> how many people? >> i would guess at least 400. >> that's big. >> for an italian wedding, it's maybe mid size, but --
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>> the couple had a son, nick. and a year later, alex took up emily's parents on an invitation to move to boone. >> it was an open offer if he wanted to come and work for fairway. >> her father offered alex an opportunity as a family member to move way up the ranks, and at my husband's encouragement, he went. >> alex took an entry level job at a fairway store near boone. the beckwiths gave the couple this house, just a five-minute drive from their own. soon there were two more additions to the family, ricky and cocoa. >> all emily webber wanted to be is to have a family and be a wife and a mother. >> it all seemed perfect until the night of january 29th, 2012. it was close to the kids' bedtime. emily had gone up early to take her nightly bath, and alex was doing things his wife normally did.
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>> i was helping with laundry. i helped the kids with their bath. >> alex says he heard emily start her bath, as he and the kids watched peter pan. there was a lot of sword fighting and things like that, and music, and it was really loud. and when it got quiet, i could hear the water still running. >> alex says the water was running for about 20 to 30 minutes, so he went upstairs to see what was taking so long and came upon a horrible scene. emily was submerged in the tub unconscious. >> i tried to -- as hard as i could, to get her out of that tub, as fast as i could. she slipped out of my arms. i started screaming help. i ran to the phone to call 911. and all i could say was help. >> 911, what is the location of your emergency? >> help!
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>> what's going on? what's going on? >> it was the worst seconds of my life. >> but there was much more to come. two lives and so many secrets would soon be put under a microscope. >> coming up, what had happened upstairs in that bathroom? >> please help me. >> how long has she been in here? >> i don't know. she was taking a bath. >> what did you think this was? >> we didn't know if it was a tragic accident or something else. >> it's the addiction, you know? it's the -- it's the addiction. >> addiction? the mystery was just beginning. when "dateline extra" continues. ♪ ♪
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to plant around the power lines. we want to keep the power on for our customers. we want to keep our community safe. this is our community, this is where we live. we need to make sure that we have a beautiful place for our children to live. together, we're building a better california. welcome back to "dateline extra." emily's husband said he thought his wife was just upstairs
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taking a bath. what followed permanently changed the course of two families. and a closely held secret about emily's life was about to become very public. we return to josh mankiewicz with "the quiet one." >> this should have been a routine night at home in small town usa, boone, iowa. instead alex fazzino was telling a 911 operator how he just pulled his wife emily out of the bathtub. >> please! honey, wake up! wake up! >> it got worse. the kids wandered in and saw their mother on the bathroom floor. >> stay away! kids, please, please. >> on the tape, you don't sound like you think there's much hope of reviving her. >> me personally, no, i didn't. >> you don't know cpr? >> no. >> but with the operator's help, alex tried. >> tilt her head back. okay?
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did you do that? >> yeah. >> sergeant john webode of the boone police department got the call and arrived at the house with two other officers. his body camera was rolling as alex led them to the bathroom. >> as we entered the master bathroom, emily was laying on the floor, face up, and she had a bluish tint to her. >> please help me. >> how long's she been in here? >> i don't know. she was taking a bath. >> could you tell whether she was still alive? >> i checked right away. i checked for a pulse and breathing, didn't feel any, so i instantly started cpr. >> how long? >> she's pretty cold. >> blood? >> no blood. no blood anywhere. she did have a big bruise on her forehead. >> what was around? anything? the bathtub was full of water, and there were oil droplets on top of the water, like bath oil.
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there was music playing from an ipad on the sink area. >> emts loaded emily into an ambulance and raced to the hospital. when her mother cindy got the call, she went straight there. >> and they told me she was in the emergency room, and then a fellow came in and hung his head and he said, she's gone. >> emily fazzino was dead at the age of 32, and no one knew why. >> when you went home that night, what did you think this was? >> i didn't really know. it was a suspicious death for sure. we didn't know if it was a suicide or a tragic accident or something else. >> around midnight, police asked alex to give a statement at headquarters. >> i pulled her and she just flopped. you know, she just flopped on the floor. >> you went in in those initial interviews. you're not represented by an attorney? >> no. >> and you talked to the police and you handed over your phone? >> yes. >> almost as if you had nothing to hide?
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>> i didn't. >> he also told police something very few people knew. his wife had a dependence on prescription drugs. alex said he was sure emily's addiction had killed her. >> it's really not my wife that did it, it's the addiction. >> what did you think had happened? >> i didn't know if, you know, she'd took a handful of pills. i was having a hard time trying to reconcile if she killed herself or if she just overdosed. >> you thought overdose, either deliberate or unintentional? >> yeah, i thought it was a reasonable assumption. >> reasonable because alex said he'd been dealing with his wife's addiction for more than a year, when he discovered she had stolen pain pills from his father. and then a few months later, alex's own doctor asked a strange question during a checkup. he says, and how's your shoulder. and i said, it's fine. why do you ask? he said, i wanted to make sure
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the vicodin i prescribed you are working. i said, excuse me? and i mean, i started crying. >> you hadn't asked for any vicodin? >> correct. >> vicodin is an opioid, a powerful pain medication that can be highly addictive. emily had asked for the prescription, saying it was for alex, but he says she ended up taking the pills herself. alex said he confronted emily. >> i said, you're gonna have to choose between your family and this medicine. i said, i'm not going to stay married to you if you continue down this road. >> and she said? >> she said okay. she said it and she may have meant it, but alex said, in the months before she died, emily would seem okay one day, but not the next. >> i could see in her eyes, they -- like a glaze. she -- and then she would be fine for a period.
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>> finally, in december 2011, two months before her death, emily reached out to her mom for help. >> did she say she'd become addicted to this painkiller? >> i don't know if she used the word addiction, but she had felt like she was abusing it. and alex was upset about it. >> emily's doctors had recommended in-patient rehab. instead, she decided to detox at her mother's house and to hide it from alex and the kids by saying she had mono. >> the reason is because they were scared of what it would do to their image. >> is the reason that you put out this cover story about emily having mono, is that because sending her to rehab would have been some kind of embarrassment to your family and you didn't want your name tarnished? >> absolutely not. we've always done the best thing for our children and it was emily's desire to keep it from alex.
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>> emily went cold turkey. cindy says the first couple days, her daughter hardly left her bed, suffering from severe headaches. but after only four days, emily went home. >> did you think she was clean, off drugs, that that problem was behind her? >> i knew that she was still tired. >> but no longer addicted? >> no. >> you were convinced that had been dealt with? >> yes. >> alex didn't find out about the detox till much later. but he says in the weeks before she died, emily still had a stash of painpills. >> how many times did you say to your wife, if you don't get off the drugs, i'm going to have to leave you? >> at least three. >> but she wouldn't do it? >> she would fall back into her old habits. >> she would never agree to rehab? >> no. she told me that all her doctors are on the same page, everything is fine. >> so alex was telling everyone that his wife was a victim of her own demons.
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but soon, new evidence would emerge that would send this case in a more sinister direction. coming up -- >> results came back clean. >> so it wasn't an overdose? >> it wasn't an overdose. >> what could it have been? what could have killed emily? >> she was scared. there was something wrong. >> when "dateline extra" continues. de, so you know you're getting a great deal. saving the moolah. [ chuckles ] as you can see, sometimes progressive isn't the lowest. not always the lowest! jamie. what are you doing? -i'm being your hype man. not right now. you said i was gonna be the hype man. no, we said we wouldn't do it. i'm sorry, we were talking about savings. i liked his way. cha-ching! talking about getting that moneeeey! talking about getting that moneeeey! savings worth the hype. now that's progressive. savings worth the hype. you're not taking these. hey, hey, hey! you're not taking those. woah, woah! you're not taking that.
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welcome back to "dateline extra." i'm tamron hall. emily fazzino was dead and investigators wanted to know how and why. the secret of emily's addiction had been exposed. was this a suicide, an accident, or maybe even murder? evidence that pointed the investigation in a new direction was about to be discovered. more accusations and more suspicions. here again is josh mankiewicz with "the quiet one." alex fazzino had lost his wife emily. despite his grief, he still had to be strong for his children. >> what did you tell your kids? >> i remember hugging them, i
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remember just telling them that mommy went to heaven and that she can't come back. >> as two families mourned and said goodbye, alex had to come to grips with the fact that he was now a single dad with three kids under the age of 7. >> it's sickening to know that if emily would have got the help she needed, she could still be here for my kids, and probably for me. >> while emily's family tried to cope with their loss, state investigator don senaker was operating on the assumption that her death was linked to her addiction. >> she did have a drug problem. she had an addiction to opiate medication, prescription pills. >> an overdose would mean no crime, just an accidental death or even a suicide. but then, six weeks later, something that changed the entire focus of the
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investigation. emily's toxicology report came back. >> the results came back clean. she wasn't under the influence of opiates at the time of her death. >> so it wasn't an overdose? >> it wasn't an overdose. >> no trace of the opiates she had been abusing. there was nothing in her system, that would have killed her. there was no alcohol in her blood. so now investigators had to take a new look at the case, starting with the photos of the bruises on emily's body. remember, police saw a bump on her head, but during her initial exam, the medical examiner found more. >> she had areas of trauma to all four sides of her head. so the front of her head, both left and right side of her head and the top of her head. >> possible those injuries could have occurred while alex was dragging his wife out of the tub? >> i don't think so. >> and there were bruises on her neck. >> she had strap muscle bruising some muscles to her neck area
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that were of concern that maybe she was possibly held under the water by her neck. >> remember, alex said he tried cpr on emily. >> those injuries couldn't be caused by somebody trying to do cpr, even somebody who didn't really know what they were doing with cpr? >> our feeling is no. >> how could emily have gotten those bruises? >> well, i know she hit her head while i was getting her out of the bathtub. or you would -- when i picked her up, i mean, i heard it hit. when i was pulling her out, her head hit. >> the side of the tub? the floor? >> i don't know. i was heaving her out -- it was so hard to get her out. >> would you have bruised her neck doing that? >> i don't know. >> agent schnitker wanted to know what might be going on behind closed doors in the fazzino marriage. he listened to another 911 call. >> and he's taking everything of mine and trying to take pills
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too. >> one week before her death, emily called 911 to complain about alex. >> he's like, trying to take property that is not his. >> emily came home inebriated the night before and i'd had it. i'd had it. and i grabbed whatever pills i could grab, and i was going to flush them down the toilet. >> and she got angry? >> she got angry, she called 911. >> no one was arrested or charged in the incident, but it seemed to be the breaking point. the next day emily filed for divorce, then alex did the same. both asked for full custody of the children. and both were still living in the same house. a few nights later, emily called her father rick. >> the words were saying one thing, the voice was telling me something different. >> what was the voice telling you? >> she was scared. there was something wrong. >> they hung up around 6:00 p.m.
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two hours later, emily would be dead. >> i will never forget that phone call. because that was the last time i heard her voice. >> for investigator schnitker, a new picture was emerging. a marriage in shambles, a husband pushed to the edge. maybe this wasn't an accident or suicide. maybe it was murder. it seems hard to believe that alex would kill his wife, and his kids are just a couple of rooms away. >> but that's -- if you're thinking this is well thought out, you know, often times couples get in arguments and they escalate and somebody dies. >> you had seen your wife endanger her life. you weren't angry at your wife's inability to kick her habit? >> no. i was disappointed in her. i was disappointed that this happened, but angry, no, never angry with emily. >> but emily's family and friends say they were angry at alex. the beckwiths and the fazzinos,
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once so close, were now splitting along family lines. coming up -- >> family divisions, secrets, finger pointing. none of it was getting investigators any closer to finding out what happened to emily fazzino. coming up. >> they just kept saying over and over, he murdered her. >> you're a murderer? >> that's not all they were saying. > did you say that alex and his family are in the mafia and that women who try to divorce them wind up dead? >> when "dateline extra" continues. what? is he gone?? finally, i thought he'd never leave... tv character: why are you texting my man at 2 a.m.? no... if you want someone to leave you alone, you pretend like you're sleeping. it's what you do. if you want to save fifteen percent or more on car insurance, you switch to geico. it's what you do. tv character: taking selfies in the kitchen
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>> north carolina officials searching for suspects right now of a county's gop headquarters was fire bombed. completed ballots were inside. it's unclear they were destroyed. hillary clinton and the state's democratic party condemned that attack. meanwhile donald trump taking to twitter to double down on his claims of a rigged election
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krooiting snl's opening skit last night as a hit job. running mate mike pence though says the gop ticket will absolutely accept the outcome of november 8th. now back to date line extra. >> welcome back to "dateline extra." i'm tamron hall. alex fazzino said he found his wife emily submerged in a bathtub and that she must have overdosed but the medical examiner's findings showed otherwise. how did emily die? there was much speculation within the family. and police had to confront alex with al odd question. here again is josh mankiewicz with more of "the quiet one." >> rumors were flying around the town of boone, iowa, right after emily fazzino's death. >> they just kept saying over and over, he murdered her. he murdered her. >> the whispering started almost immediately. >> yeah.
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within a -- within a day. >> you're a murderer? >> that's what they were saying. >> reporter: and not just a murderer. emily's sister, ammie, told investigators alex was also a mobster. >> did you say that alex and his family are in the mafia, in organized crime, and that women who try to divorce their way out of the fazzino family wind up dead? >> that was information that emily had told me. >> ammie doesn't realize that of my mom's six siblings and my dad's one sibling there have been 11 divorces. >> those people all still alive? >> they're not all still alive, but none of 'em were killed. >> but they weren't murdered. >> right. >> so the fazzinos are not some hooked up organized crime family? >> no, and i resent her saying that. >> reporter: alex insisted the allegations were ludicrous, and that's also what investigators determined. >> did you pick up in your
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investigation any indication that the fazzino family is involved in organized crime? >> no. >> you didn't find any evidence that that was true? >> no. >> or that in any -- played any role in -- in -- in -- >> emily's death, no. >> -- emily's death at all. >> no. >> reporter: to get away from all the finger-pointing, alex took his kids to kansas city and moved back in with his parents. >> we all suffered. our family as a whole suffered with the accusation that my son was a murderer. >> reporter: four months later, the investigation took another turn when the medical examiner released the final autopsy report. she ruled the cause and manner of death, undetermined, meaning she couldn't say how emily died. prosecutors dan kolacia and scott brown had been assigned to the case. >> the fact that you can't say for sure and the medical examiner couldn't say for sure, that makes this a bigger mountain to climb, doesn't it? >> this is a difficult case based upon the evidence. it doesn't mean that it didn't need to be prosecuted, just
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because we have an undetermined call doesn't mean we don't push forward. >> reporter: so, they asked a different medical examiner to look at the case -- a south dakota pathologist, dr. brad randall. >> and dr. randall gave an opinion of the injuries are highly suggestive of a struggle and ruled it a homicide. >> reporter: homicide, and there was only one suspect. in april of 2013, 15 months after emily died, alex fazzino was arrested and charged with his wife's murder. >> they said, "you're under arrest." and i was in complete shock. when you're innocent you don't think it can happen. you think they're gonna come to their senses, they're gonna see it. but, no. >> reporter: he spent three weeks in jail before being released on bond. >> truth will come out. >> reporter: alex's sister, marguerite says her brother was charged with murder because of small town politics. >> what was it that you think
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kept the state sort of moving forward with -- with the idea of prosecuting? >> well, i think it was the beckwiths. i think the power that they have in that community and i believe that they were putting political pressure on the state to prosecute this. >> the suggestion that there was some sort of political pressure that was put on my office to push this case forward or to charge it is absolute nonsense. it didn't happen. >> reporter: as alex waited for trial, things got worse. his 5-year-old daughter coco was diagnosed with cancer and underwent a bone marrow transplant. >> his daughter's illness took a huge toll on our family, but i will say this about my son. i saw him as very strong. you know, he was handling things that i don't think most people could. >> reporter: it had taken four years after his wife's death, but finally alex fazzino went on trial for her murder. >> please rise. >> reporter: because of
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pre-trial publicity and the high profile beckwith name, the case was moved out of boone, 200 miles away to decorah, iowa, where the fazzinos and the beckwiths were now separated by much more than the courtroom aisle. the prosecutor told the jury, that after a deteriorating relationship and with divorce papers filed, alex lost it that night and killed his wife. >> alex had everything to gain by emily's death. and he had everything to lose by emily being alive. alex would lose his kids, would lose his job. would lose his house. and lose money in the fight for divorce. >> reporter: the state started its case using alex's own words. >> help! help! oh, my god! >> 911. what is the location of your emergency? >> help, help, help. >> reporter: prosecutors said this wasn't grief, it was remorse.
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>> in that initial 911 call, alex sounds pretty genuinely traumatized to me. he doesn't sound like somebody who was faking it. >> part of the argument to -- to the jury is that it has to be a horrific thing to commit a murder. >> what we're hearing is his horror at having just committed a murder of someone who is close to him? >> that would be a way to characterize it, yes. >> reporter: prosecutors claimed that in that 911 call, alex had already concocted a story that emily committed suicide or died from a drug overdose. >> my wife's killed herself. my wife's killed herself. please help me. >> who? >> reporter: even at that police interview a few hours later, prosecutors said alex was pushing his theory that emily had somehow overdosed. >> maybe she didn't kill herself. maybe it was an accident. >> reporter: then the prosecution called the state medical examiner to tell jurors about that key piece of evidence, the toxicology report. >> did you also have testing
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done on body fluids and blood that had been taken from emily fazzino at her autopsy? >> yes, i had many, many toxicology tests. >> reporter: she told the jury emily had no drugs in her system that would have killed her. >> the drug tests were -- that were done did not show opiates in her system at all. >> reporter: you think it didn't play a role? >> i don't think it played a role that night. >> reporter: and even though she'd initially ruled the cause of death undetermined, the state medical examiner had a surprising change of heart on the witness stand. >> which manner of death do you favor over the others? >> in this case, i'm much more strongly leaning toward homicide than any of the other manners of death. >> reporter: and that second pathologist said there was no doubt about his conclusion. >> bruises, front, back, left, and right of the head, would be consistent with a homicide. bruises along the side of the windpipe and larynx would be consistent with a homicide. >> reporter: murder by
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strangulation. prosecutors now called family and friends to testify that emily felt threatened by her husband. her sister, ammie. >> how would you describe emily fazzino in the months leading up to her death? >> sad. >> why was emily fazzino sad, do you know? >> cause she wanted, she wanted to get away from alex. >> reporter: the children's nanny also recounted a conversation with emily just before her death. >> i asked emily two questions. the first one was if she was scared of alex. >> what was emily's response? >> her response was yes. >> what was the second one? >> i had asked her if she was worried that alex would harm her or kill her. >> what was emily's response? >> she nodded her head yes. >> reporter: less than a week later, emily fazzino was dead. prosecutors said there was only one conclusion -- alex murdered his wife.
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>> the only explanation here after looking at all the evidence, all the circumstances, is that the head injuries were inflicted, and who would've done that. alex fazzino. >> may it please the court. >> reporter: now it was the defense's turn. this was to be a trial of two emilys. coming up -- >> did you drink a lot tonight? >> no, i had three cocktails. >> reporter: the surprise evidence alex had up his sleeve. >> why -- why -- why does it matter? what'd you do today? >> emily, under the influence? when "dateline extra" continues. ♪ ♪ ♪ look out honey... the highly advanced audi a4.
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with means and motive. everything to lose if she remained alive and everything to gain if she were dead. but armed with a new piece of evidence, the defense was about to have its day. would it be enough to convince a jury? we return to josh mankiewicz with "the quiet one." >> reporter: by this time, the love that had once joined the beckwith and fazzino families was long gone. in an iowa courtroom, both families had listened for a week. >> alex fazzino murdered emily fazzino on january 29. >> reporter: as prosecutors painted alex fazzino as a monster who brutally killed his wife in a fit of rage. >> i gotta ask you this straight out. did you play any role in killing your wife? >> physically, no. i mean i, i'll always feel a little responsible that i couldn't get through to anybody to get her help.
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and i'll carry that with me for all of my life. >> reporter: defense lawyers, bill kutmus and trever hook, insisted that there was no murder here, or any crime at all. >> this case should have never been prosecuted. >> that was where you came down right, was from the beginning, was that the case shouldn't have been brought? >> absolutely not. i took that position because of the lack of evidence. alex fazzino was totally innocent. >> there's no more pressure than when you -- if you have an innocent person that you're trying to defend on this kind of a charge, first-degree murder. >> reporter: kutmus says that from the beginning, prosecutors targeted alex and refused to consider anything else. >> they reviewed all the information, the toxicology reports, everything associated with her death. they concluded, "we don't know what the cause of death is. we don't know the manner of death." and what happened almost a year and a half later, the state finds some guy from sioux falls, south dakota, a pathologist who said that the manner of death was -- was a homicide. they found this person.
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>> reporter: kutmus stated his case to the jury. >> emily fazzino passed away as a result of an accidental drowning. and that will relate to her addiction. >> reporter: he said the only crime was that emily never received the help she needed. the defense called emily's mother to the stand to show that detox at her house was at best amateur hour. >> you have no certificate or any license. >> no, i don't. >> are you telling this jury that you know all the subtleties of withdrawal? >> absolutely not. >> reporter: kutmus tried to cast doubt on the claim that emily had gotten completely clean before she died. >> were you in denial at that time about your daughter's medical condition? >> absolutely not. >> reporter: to drive home that point, the defense called witnesses who say they saw signs emily was still abusing those pain pills and alcohol in the weeks before she died. one of them was alex's mother.
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>> she was argumentative. agitated and she didn't really seem to comprehend sometimes what we were talking about. >> reporter: signs, the defense said, that are evident in this video. >> what did you do today? >> well -- >> reporter: it was a facetime call alex said he recorded less than two weeks before emily died. >> i got, i can't, i don't know. why, why, why does it matter, what'd you today -- >> what? >> why'd you record that facetime call? >> to ensure i'd get custody of the kids in a divorce. >> you wanted proof that emily was sort of impaired in the course of her daily life. >> right. it's hard to argue with what's plain to see on video. >> did you drink a lot tonight? >> no. i had three cocktails. >> reporter: the defense theory? just before she died, knowing she was facing a child custody
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battle and would be tested -- emily took herself off the drugs one final time. >> she goes cold turkey. what happens? it's clear. withdrawal happens two or three days later. withdrawal -- and what does withdrawal do? seizures, fainting, dizziness, unsteadiness, weakness. she could've fallen in that bathtub. was unable to even lift herself up. >> and that also explains why there weren't any drugs found in her system? >> correct. >> exactly. >> reporter: could emily fazzino have simply drowned accidentally in the tub? alex's attorneys were hoping to plant that thought in the minds of the jurors, but what about those bruises? they called their own pathologist who said he didn't know what had caused them. >> do you know if they made a determination where they could conclude how that particular injury occurred? >> no, sir. it's unknown to them and to me, unlike the tv shows you can't just look at that and tell exactly how it happened. >> reporter: no expert, they argued, could say for certain that that there had even been a murder.
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>> i do not know the cause of death, i do not know the manner of death. that's not an intellectual failure, that's intellectual honesty. >> reporter: and the defense was all too happy to remind jurors that even the state's own m.e., dr. catellier, had come to the same conclusion in her original report. the cause of death, the cause of death, undetermined. >> well, is there anything in her original autopsy report that you take issue or disagree with? >> no, sir. i actually agree with it wholeheartedly. >> at trial, she testified that she favors homicide. would you agree with that? >> no, sir, i would respectfully disagree with that. >> the defense conclusion, it wasn't alex who killed emily. it was what was in those pill bottles. >> this is the marital issue. this is what he screamed about. and he howled about. no one would listen. do justice to alex fazzino. find him not guilty.
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>> jurors would now have to decide if alex fazzino was a killer or a wrongly accused husband who had tried only to save his wife. >> the only thing certain in that iowa courtroom was that tensions were running high between the two families. extremely high. would alex walk free or spend his life in prison for murder? coming up -- >> are you prepared for a guilty verdict? >> yeah. >> two families on edge. four years of questions. the verdict at last. >> when "dateline extra" continues.
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learn more about the safeguards at welcome back to "dateline extra." in the case against alex fazzino, the prosecution argued that bruises on his wife's body and a clean toxicology report meant she'd been murdered. but what about that facetime call appearing to show an intoxicated emily?
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the defense claimed no one could definitively say how she even died. and if there was no cause of death, there could be no crime. now alex fazzino's fate was in the hands of a jury. here's josh mankiewicz with the conclusion of "the quiet one." >> four years after emily fazzino's death, her husband's fate was finally in the hands of a jury. alex says he was confident during the nearly three-week trial, but says doubt crept in during those final minutes. >> were you prepared for a guilty verdict? >> yeah. i wrote a note to my children. >> what's it say? >> nick, ricky, and cocoa, i loved your mother, and i never hurt her. i would never leave you. like your mom is always in your heart, i will be, too. you kids are the light of my life, all my love now and forever, dad. >> the first day the jury went
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home without a verdict. as the hours ticked by the next morning, still nothing from the jury. in the afternoon, alex got a phone call the jury had reached a decision. >> when they called me and said the jury's in, i could barely breathe. >> emily's family and friends rushed to the courthouse. prosecutors were confident. >> we did the best that we could in putting on the evidence that we had and hopefully the jury would see it our way and convict him. >> the defense attorneys were confident as well. >> we had the facts, we had the experts. >> but you never know. >> but you never know. >> good luck. >> love you. >> both sides couldn't be any more raw or more on edge. alex was facing life in prison. and finally, after four long years -- >> is this the verdict that each and every one of the members of the jury -- >> here it was. >> in the matter of the state of
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iowa versus alexander joseph fazzino, we, the jury, find the defendant not guilty. >> not guilty. the words alex and his family had been waiting to hear. even his veteran defense attorneys couldn't hold it together. >> i held off crying until bill started crying. he started it and that's what sent me over the edge. >> and one never cries if you think your client is guilty. you don't. >> god bless you. >> on the other side of the courtroom, emily's family and friends could barely move. with the verdict, the divide between two families became complete. celebration across the aisle became too much for emily's mother to take. >> shut up! >> i went in shock. all i can remember is people jumping up and down, like
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cheerleaders. i didn't know until afterwards that i told them to shut up. >> as they left the courtroom, the reality of what had happened sank in. back inside, alex says he felt far from victorious. >> there's not much to be excited about. emily is still gone. and my kids don't have their mother. >> i felt completely unchanged. i was innocent when i walked in the courtroom and i'm innocent when i walk out of the courtroom. so what's there to high five about? >> you know there are people that are never going to believe you're innocent. >> yeah. i'm very aware. >> you're okay with that? >> i'm not okay with it. i can't let it bother me. i'm not going to let what somebody says keep me from holding my head up high. >> emily's parents are among those who still believe in alex's guilt.
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but strangely enough, something that sounds like acceptance crept into our conversation. >> this isn't easy for me to say. i hope that the rest of his life, he spends doing as much as he possibly can for his children. we don't have bitterness inside -- >> or hate. >> or hate. he was found innocent. it's over. we're walking down the road of life. >> their granddaughter cocoa is dancing down that road. she turns 7 years old, cancer-free. but alex says big moments like these will forever be tinged with sadness. >> graduating from kindergarten, my son's first big hit, every one of those moments for me, it's not the happiest because emily's not there. she's not there for them. and for me, to share in it. it's hard.
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>> that's all for this edition of "dateline extra." i'm tamron hall. thanks for watching. it was tough. it was tough to think that anybody could do that to someone. to look at the pictures of what they did to her and hear details of how it was carried out, it's just, it's devastating. >> reporter: shauna tiaffay, loving mom by day, vegas cocktail waitress by night. >> i was at one of the bars and i saw her walk by.


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